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Tipping for popcorn at the movies...? YEP!!!

I went to a recently-renovated local movie theater over the weekend. http://www.dailylocal.com/general-new... It's now unique in several ways: they sell beer, wine and mixed drinks, they sell complete meals offered from an Applebees-type menu (app, entree, dessert) and they provide seat-service. In fact, there's no concession stand at all; the only way you can get anything to eat or drink is to order it from a server (prior to the beginning of the movie) or by pushing a "seat- side" service button located at every seat. Heck -- all I wanted for munching during a mid-afternoon showing of "The Hundred-Foot Journey" was a small bag of popcorn. No such thing. Popcorn with "unlimited refills" (just push the service button to request a refill) was $8.50. Add tax and it's up to $9.00. And when the "check" is presented to you, how can you NOT tip? Sucker that I am, I ordered the popcorn anyway, and I must say, the bowl (a REAL serving bowl; not a paper bucket) that was brought over held a very generous serving -- more than two people could finish.

I just wonder how/if the offerings at this new theater will sway my decision about whether to go there. (There are other nearby theaters that show the same movies.) On the one hand, the individual theaters are much smaller than before (Max. capacity ~70 people) and very plush. Comfy leather seats, trays at every seat that make dining easy; cloth napkins and "real" flatware. But I don't go to the movies to eat; I go to see a movie. I can't speak to the quality of the food, but from what I've seen of it, I'd say it compares to Applebees.

For now, I'm still pondering future visits.

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  1. Not only would I be horrified at tipping for popcorn, but the idea of trying to watch a movie in a room where other people are ordering, receiving, and eating meals sounds like a recipe for a terrible film-viewing experience. It's aggravating enough to deal with all the idiots who can't stop texting or yapping to their companions during the show at a regular theater!

    ...and get off my lawn :-)

    3 Replies
    1. re: travelmad478

      Back in the 1980s there was a movie theatre Called Milford Pub and Cinema in Milford, CT that served pizza, burgers, beer and wine at your seats. Seats were pub style with small round tables between them. It was a small theatre and ran mostly arts films or second run. It lasted about 8 years. Always tipped.

      About 6 years ago National Amusements opened a 14plex in the Westfield Mall in Milford. They had two screens that were called 'Directors Halls' Tickets cost $14, instead if 10 at the other screens. There were servers who took food orders from the assorted concessions or in lobby restaurant and served you your meal/drinks at your seat. The seats were plush and oversized with holders for your food/beverage tray. Always tipped the server. You could also bring in food that you bought at the concession and not tip.

      Unfortunately about 3 years ago the location was sold to RAVE and they did away with Directors Hall and the food delivery service. It had been profitable for National Amusement, just not a fit with the RAVE system.

      Disclosure: a cousin manages the 14plex for both owners. I paid for the food but never had to pay for tickets, so I certainly didn't mind tipping.

      1. re: travelmad478

        I'm with you. I go to the movie to watch the movie. I find that it's already distracting enough with the addition of food type snacks already being offered at concession stands-nachos, hot dogs etc. I can't imagine being surrounded with the clicking of "real" silverware, drunks with overly exaggerated whispers ordering more cocktails, a constant stream of popcorn refills, etc.

        If I want to eat dinner while watching a movie it's Netflix time!

        So get off my lawn too!

        1. re: travelmad478

          Well, this place isn't too far afield from your neighborhood, Travelmad. I thought I'd be distracted by people ordering, eating and paying for food during the movie, but most people seemed to place and receive their orders prior to the start of the movie, and checks were "discretely" delivered toward the end. I was also concerned about food aromas "wafting" my way during the movie, but that turned out to not be an issue.

          The seating configuration was obviously considered for food service. There are a total of only six seats across each row: aisle, 4-seats, aisle, 2-seats. So no one is ever more than one seat in from an aisle. That way food doesn't have to get passed along by many people before it reaches its destination. Can you imagine if it WAS? :-)

          Anyway, the check was left for us in a regular check folder; maybe that's why we fell for adding the tip.

        2. Your thread title is misleading. My first thought upon seeing it was tip jars at the concession stand? No tip. I go to the movies and buy something at the C stand or not and go in and sit down with the general public. To me that's going to a movie.

          You sound like you like the "upscale" movie experience but are not sure if you should or not and whether you should tip or not. Well, only posters on an internet discussion board can point you in the right direction.

          2 Replies
          1. re: miss_belle

            There are things I liked about the theater and things I disliked. The dining concept, and all it implied, just took me by surprise. It was pretty clear to me, from the level of service, that a tip was expected.

            I'm not sure what you mean when you say, "only posters on an internet discussion board can point you in the right direction."

            1. re: miss_belle

              The concession stand at one of my regular theater's (yes, it's more of an art house theater - but I wouldn't call it "fancy") has a "bar" section where you can get beer, wine, cocktails and they definitely encourage tipping. But you're not encouraged to tip at the "non-booze" part of it. Now how pouring a glass of wine differs from a 32oz soda.... I dunno. I've never gotten a cocktail and thought about that.

            2. Well, if you don't want to eat at the movies there's no point in returning. We sometimes go to the one in Leawood, KS, which the original AMC concept location in the Kansas City area. They offer a variety of stuff so you can usually find something appealing. Like you I enjoy the comfort and I've never found the food service to be distracting. I enjoy the option of beer or wine as well. Everything I've tried has been fine, but it is pricey because after all it is a movie theater.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Samalicious

                I thought the food prices were in line with an Applebees-type restaurant. But I, personally, wouldn't go to a movie because I wanted to eat there. Makes me wish drive-in theaters were still around. Put the kids in their PJs, BYO food and drink, enjoy a movie!

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Now that I could handle. I am just barely old enough to have experienced drive-ins--I vividly recall going to a double feature of Paper Moon and Play It Again, Sam at the Eatontown (NJ) drive-in when I was about 6. My parents loaded me and my sister, with sleeping bags, into the back of our '65 Dodge Dart station wagon and we all enjoyed the show. If I recall correctly, my sister and I were supposed to be going to sleep after the first picture, but we kept popping up from the way back during the second one anyway.

                  1. re: travelmad478

                    I worked in the snack bar at a drive-in, age 15-17 in the early/mid 70's. Great job, put people still bitched and moaned quarter popcorn and 50 cent drinks. Why do people think they have the right to be a jerk to a 15 year old kid? I'm certain it goes on today, like the kid serving you has a say in the prices.

                    1. re: travelmad478

                      When we were kids, my parents used to take my brother and me to the Paramus (NJ) Drive-in. Years later, when my (now) husband and I were dating, we also went to that drive-in. But that was a whole other thing! :-)

                2. Here's a newspaper article about this new movie upgrade trend: http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/movie...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: greygarious

                    Interesting, but to me it shouts "gimmick" through and through. $28 to see a movie that'll be on Netflix in a few weeks? And that's just for ONE person. Our seating was in the more "downscale" of the theaters at this movie complex. No reclining seats -- those come with a premium price and children are not permitted, regardless of the movie being shown. But one other point made in the article was this: "“If you’re used to showing up to your theater 15 minutes before the movie starts,” Noonan said, “you’re going to be disappointed.” You can get tickets at the door, but for popular movies, it’s best to reserve ahead online (and, alas, incur a $1.25 “inconvenience fee.” Grrr.)" We arrived about 30 minutes before showtime and were surprised to see how few seats were available -- yes, it's ALL reserved seating. So add another fee for advanced reservations to the overblown tab.

                    So here's where I am right now -- maybe I'd return for the novelty of it, but not because I want the whole dine-in experience. And for the traditional movie-with-popcorn experience, I'll likely opt for one of the other two nearby movie venues with old-fashioned food concessions and comfortable stadium seating.

                  2. If it's the Alamo theater chain, personally I don't mind the experience (including tipping) - but I only go if I want the "full" experience. Prior to the Alamo screenings, they put together sets of clips that relate to the film (like before the new x-men film, it was clips from the old cartoons, youtube clips of people in costume, etc.). And while I'd never get the popcorn (I'd just eat too much), I do enjoy some of their other snacks - though they are in the family of bar snacks (but I will vouch for the fried pickles).

                    But I only go if I want the full experience. Because it is more expensive.

                    1. it seems to me that the answer to the question depends a lot on what "life stage" one is in.

                      as a partially retired person, i tend toward your view of "i go to see a movie."
                      on the other hand, when my daughter and her boyfriend (who are both in the healthcare field and work incredible, unpredictable hours) go out for a "date night" it is SO MUCH more pleasant for them to go to a place where there are recliners and servers and where they can have a beer delivered to their seat.

                      for them, a going to a movie is a brief respite from a frenetic, high stress, life.
                      for them, most of their waking hours are spent in a physical, intellectual, and emotional crucible.
                      for them, date night is a time when they want to be able to RELAX and be distracted.
                      it is a time when they can actually expect to receive and finish whatever food they order.
                      it is a brief time when it is all about them and their comfort and a time that nobody will be calling them.

                      whether or not the food is high quality, or whether or not the food is "worth every cent," or whether or not they could have gotten a cheaper beer if they went to the grocery store and waited in line, etc, is the farthest thing from their mind.
                      the movie house is selling more than a movie. it is selling a respite.
                      for folks like me, half my life is a respite, so that part of it is not as valued.
                      for folks like my daughter and her boyfriend, it is HEAVEN.
                      tipping for this higher level of comfort and service, for them, is more than worth it and they tip generously.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: westsidegal

                        I understand your point about lifestyle, westsidegal. It also occurred to me as I read your post that dining in a movie theater setting offers another kind of respite -- welcome to many, I'm sure. There, you can dine without having to engage in mundane conversation. Personally, I regard shared meal time as a social time; that said, I also enjoy meals alone with NO conversation. The movie gives people maybe the most valid of excuses for not engaging in mealtime conversation. So maybe this venue will also work well for older couples who, from my observation, often sit across the table from each other at a restaurant, exchanging few, if any, words the entire time.

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          good point.
                          for me, i try to have the meal before or after the movie because i CRAVE the conversation.

                          for my daughter and her boyfriend, often they will order a meal while at work and will need to pay and walk out before the meal is even ready. their "date" starts after a 14 to 16 hour shift that may or may not have included any eating time (shoving an energy bar in your mouth while "holding up the wall" at an ER is not really eating imho).
                          just having the option to eat normal food AND see a movie, is, for them, a big deal.
                          without these formats their only choice would be to eat OR see a movie.

                          also, sometimes they are so emotionally and physically tired after their day, it takes them a couple of hours to unwind enough to really converse anyway.
                          they can sit, virtually silent, during the movie and by the time the movie is over they have decompressed enough to really pay attention to each other.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            For your daughter and her boyfriend - your explanation makes complete sense - but for those of us in that generation without nearly as intense schedules, I think that there's also a change in attitude towards going to the movies. There's now much more a focus of an "experience", whether it's the ultra reclining chairs, serving food, having a full bar, etc.

                            Currently my favorite movie theater is a pop-up theater, and while it doesn't have food service during the film - the design of the theater and the types of concessions are definitely part of "being unique".

                            1. re: cresyd

                              MY needs are completely different from their needs.

                              i much prefer to wait in line at the local artsy-fartsy movie house that offers none of this.
                              i work alone at home.
                              when i go out, i want to be surrounded by people.

                              my daughter and her boyfriend are living in another dimension from me. same city. completely different life-space.

                              it took me a while to even realize that when my daughter walked in my door after a day of work that i need to keep my mouth shut until she has a little time to decompress so that we can be on somewhat of a similar plane.

                              i crave social stimulation.
                              for my daughter and her boyfriend, work provides more than enough stimulation of every sort.

                              the niceties of GOOD food are critical to me. chain-quality food served at high prices would be anathema to me.
                              to me, mega-brand beer is not worth the calories.

                              to them, it's a whole different story.

                          2. re: CindyJ

                            i just thought of another group of folks that gravitate to this set up:

                            date night for the parents of young children where both parents work.

                            the parents get home from work, feed the kids, give the kids attention/read stories, put kids to bed, babysitter comes and the parents can eat AND see a movie AND have a drink, sans children while paying the babysitter for a minimal amount of time.

                            i know 3 sets of parents that do this this.

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              Absolutely. In my area, we have Movie Tavern. We haven't been in a few years, but when my boys were babies, I was nervous leaving them with a sitter. It was fun to combine dinner, drinks, and a movie and still get home early.


                        2. Thank heavens for my large screen tv and surround sound.

                          1. Never been / heard of anything like this. I kind of like this idea, not for every movie I see in theatres. Nice change of pace for a date night.

                            1. I once went to a theater that served food. It was years ago and the theater was set up with tables on a few 'terraces' so we were seated at a table. I think we ate pizza and drank beer while the movie was showing. The concept does not seem to be popular. I don't know about the newer business models about combining food with a film experience beyond the typical popcorn, candy, and soda. Personally, while we don't go to a lot of movies, I usually smuggle in some Twizzlers and buy the popcorn/soda combo. Sometimes I'll also bring in a bottle of water.

                              1. There are some movies I wait until it's available for rent
                                There are some movies I go to the theatre because it's enhanced by the communal experience.
                                There are some movies I pay extra for reserved seating or 3D effects

                                I'm just glad there are choices.

                                1. I saw a movie at the same theater (AMC Painters Crossing) a few weeks ago, and was pleasantly surprised that the food service caused almost no disruptions in enjoying the movie. (Given that, as a moviegoer, I have zero tolerance for yakking, texting, and such during the film, that;s saying something!) They had a couple of non-macro brews on tap, and the pizza was actually pretty decent.

                                  Would I go there very often? No, especially when you consider all the additional costs, but it's a nice change of pace.

                                  1. We have a theater near us called Cinetopia. They have several theaters that are 21+. They serve beer and wine and food. Kind of spendy, but the seats are either recliners or leather seats with hassocks and individual arm chair tables. I have to say I like it. The seats are tiered so that you never have to try and "look over" someone's head (I'm short). The servers come around before the movie starts and take orders. If you want something after the movie starts, you do have to go get it. And there is a concession stand along with an eat-in or take out restaurant. The tickets can be a little spendy unless you can get a good deal through Groupon or we just got some at 2/$15 at Costco - and they don't expire! So I don't mind tipping the waiter. They tell you they automatically add a 15% gratuity.